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Des Moines Register Challenge: Endorsement In Secret

Des Moines Register Challenge: Endorsement In Secret

Silence, off-the-recordThe Des Moines Register’s Editor, Rick Green, last night published some details around an interview that the Register’s editorial board held with President Obama Tuesday morning.  An interview they could not, at first, talk about publicly.  An off-the-record conversation that they say will contribute to their endorsement decision, and the conditions of which will not affect their decision.  Since Rick’s original online post, the White House has released their own transcript of the conversation.

To his credit, Rick was clearly frustrated with the White House for putting such severe restrictions on the 30 minute telephone interview.  He is convinced that Iowans need to hear what the President had to say, and that Iowans would be influenced positively by what Obama shared with the editorial board.  The Register has been consistent in their effort to promote transparency in government, and should be applauded for their efforts.

Obviously, the President’s campaign (did we say “White House”?  Are the two the same?) was sensitive to the impact that even a handful of words can have in the world of instant communication.  But this administration has been a paragon of secrecy since moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and the 2008 campaign promise of transparency has proved not only to be a ruse, but largely ignored by both campaigns in 2012 and the mainstream media.

Rick’s comments attempt to provide an element of transparency at least to the Register’s process, but it’s unfortunate that he treats the President’s requirements for this interview as inevitable.  Even though he challenged the decision, he said they “relented and took the call.  How could we not?”  I think the Des Moines Register’s influence is adequate enough that if they balked, it would have looked bad for the President and the White House eventually would relent because they would have to.  How could the Register endorse the President without such a conversation?

But, given the idea that Obama is just so important and powerful a man that he should be listened to, the secondary piece of this was amazing to me.  Rick stated later in his post that the “the White House’s decision won’t play a factor in our board’s final endorsement decision.”  Perhaps that was a coded message to the Obama team that just the opposite was true.  But it escapes credibility to believe that anyone in the Register’s position would not give serious consideration to this and other examples of the President’s opaqueness and attempts to control the messages going out so desperately.  How the President of the United States tries to hide the most trivial information should have a substantial impact on the Editorial Board’s perception of this administration.

Looking back on this, before the White House released the transcripts, it is wildly crazy that there was any concern about the contents of the interview.  The transcript was about as mundane as the first Presidential Debate.  The sense is that the President has a cozy enough relationship with left-leaning media such as the Register that they can talk casually about how they will continue to change America in ways that the public doesn’t need to hear, but that the Register’s editors should hear in order to provide the “right” endorsement.  Even though the Register apparently wants to avoid any such appearance, this sounds like a lot of back room dealing with members of “the team” to get the endorsement.  Perhaps the White House figured out that the Register has more integrity than that.  What concerns me is, what kind of off-the-record conversations are going on with other media organizations?  We may never know.

By the way, the Register hasn’t actually stated that the transcript was accurate.  I’m assuming they can tell us one way or the other, can’t they?

Image © Aaron Amat –

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Des Moines Register Challenge: Endorsement In Secret

Final Face Off: The Last Presidential Debate Of 2012

President Obama and Governor Romney Debate on October 22, 2012If you’re reading this, we’re guessing you are anxious to know who we thought won last night’s debate.  That answer is simple: Bob Schieffer, who moderated the debate.  We were convinced that, based on Bob’s near ebullient post debate analysis in the first two presidential debates that he would be the epitome of liberal media bias in moderating this debate.  Bob was a pleasant surprise to us, and frankly if you were to look on his past performances in a similar role, he has been very capable of acting as an objective facilitator when the situation required it.  Our hats are off to Bob as the best of this year’s moderators.

The spotlight at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, was of course on the two men seated across from Bob.  The simple conference table setting likely contributed to a more cordial discussion, as did Bob’s management of the debate.  Bob gave a lot of leeway to both sides during the evening, and the candidates took what they could.  Overall, not unlike the prior performance in terms of spirit, depth of attacks, and depth of content.

President Obama (Justin Arnold)

The president performed very well on this night, managing to paint his foreign policy record in a relatively good light while also jabbing Mitt Romney with a frequency that frankly surprised me.

It was crystal clear from the beginning that President Obama felt behind in this race and needed to make up ground.  He directly attacked Romney as often as possible with the following list of assertions: Romney’s foreign policy positions have been “all over the map”, that a Romney foreign policy would be akin to George Bush and Dick Cheney, and that Romney’s budget “just doesn’t add up” and “just doesn’t work”.  Joining these more aggressive attacks were consistent subtle reminders that he, not Romney, has the experience edge when it comes to being the Commander In Chief—starting sentences with, “I know you haven’t had the opportunity to execute foreign policy” and “What I’ve learned as Commander In Chief…”

Though I thought Obama managed to speak his way out of what has been a total failure to stop Iran from going nuclear, he still lost the exchange on the topic.  The Iran discussion pretty much went: Obama spoke first and sounded tough on Iran—Romney spoke second, sounded even tougher, and gave actual specifics of the further actions he would take to achieve the strategic objective.

While points on the margins were scored by each candidate on a variety of topics, both performed well and no real game changing momentum shifts transpired.  The bigger story was what Romney chose not to say (nothing on Benghazi) and how Obama chose to say what he said (very aggressive and condescending).

3 things That Irked Me

  1. In the first segment, speaking of Romney’s foreign policy positions, the president said to Romney, “Your strategy has been all over the map…, and is not designed to keep America safe.”
    This struck me as an insulting, reckless, and slanderous claim.  What is being implied here is that Romney has more interest in playing politics than protecting the lives of America’s citizens.  While this is the caricature Liberals have constructed of Romney, hearing a sitting president say this went over the line in my view—and ironically it doesn’t even make much sense as Romney agrees with a good deal of Obama’s foreign policy decisions.
  2. When the topic drifted to the economy President Obama said the following, “We’ve got to make sure we reduce our deficit …we’ve got to do it in a responsible way by cutting out spending we don’t need, but also asking the wealthiest to pay a little more.”
    It is amazing that he can use these lines with a straight face given his actual record—he has been the president for nearly four years!  If there is wasteful spending why have you not cut it already?  This is more empty talk and complete garbage.
  3. I find it personally maddening that the President keeps saying, including tonight, that since the Afghanistan war is winding down we now have all this money to “invest in America” and “put people back to work”.  Look, it couldn’t be any more obvious that we simply do not have any money—no more dough.  This country has accumulated over $4 trillion dollars in debt in just the last four years.  Obama is fond of saying this is largely because we put two wars on a credit card, but the fact is that all this “new” money we somehow will have as a result of not spending it in Afghanistan is this same “credit card” money.  It is just ridiculous, and I wish Romney would have called him on it.

Mitt Romney (Art)

Last night’s debate could have been an opportunity for Romney to take the election away from the President.  Instead, we witnessed another draw.  Governor Romney did have a good handle on the issues, but throughout the discussion was consistently agreeable with the President’s decisions on various events.

Anyone with any sense and experience of age should know that Foreign Policy is an area that one develops over time when doing a job that requires direct interaction with ambassadors and foreign dignitaries on a weekly basis.  People who become good at this include ambassadors, state department employees, CIA operatives, Secretaries of State, Defense & Agriculture, and of course the President of the United States.  It is to be expected that a challenger to a sitting president will need to work hard to reach a level of knowledge that his opponent will have developed over 4 years of constant work.  Even four years ago candidate Obama had a foreign policy agenda whose weaknesses were not apparent to him until he had been in office for a while.

While Romney did a good job of scoring points on several of Obama’s foreign policy failures, he did so at a friendly pace and with no visual animus.  He made what is likely to be the smart decision of completely avoiding the Benghazi issue of “What did the President and his administration say when.”  This had multiple benefits for the Governor, including: he avoided backing the President into a corner (which could have been disastrous considering the fact that any simple fact-checking after the second debate proved the President wrong about his own Rose Garden comments), the public watching this would generally have seen this as just rubbing the President’s nose in the issue, and frankly many would have found it boring.

But despite the smartness of that one decision, the general tone was incredibly cordial and filled with “I agree with…” statements on both sides of the debate.  Romney did well to point out the failures (early pandering by the President to other countries, the strained relations with Poland over the canceling of the missile defense shield agreement with Poland and the Czech Republic), but each of these items deserved more direct attention.

3 Disappointments

  1. Romney potentially had the upper hand on a number of issues.  The only one he really dug deeply into was Obama’s “Apology Tour”.  The problem with this was that the only people who really have an issue with what Obama did were the Conservative Base of the Republican Party.  They’re all waving their flags and cheering for Romney as he pressed Obama about this, but it’s not selling with the Left, and Moderates don’t really care.
  2. Many of Romney’s criticisms of the President were couched in a way that most people missed the zing.   A key example was his comment, in response to his own statements about Russia’s threat, “I would not have told Vladimir Putin that after the election I would have more flexibility”, referring to the open mic comment that the President did indeed make to the Russian Prime Minister.
  3. I have mixed thoughts about Mitt’s detour early in the debate into domestic topics.  There is little question that the internal strength of the United States has an impact on how we are perceived on the foreign stage, but this looked like a deliberate attempt to hit some points where the Governor knew he had more control.  It demonstrated the lightness of his total package in foreign policy, but the good news is that it didn’t really help Obama skirt his own failings.

Impact On The Race

It’s too bad that the candidates’ performances did not eclipse that of the moderator.  We doubt this debate moves the race at all, especially considering that the last one was far more notable and it only pushed the polls by a point or two.

Obama being so aggressive and giving a rosy summation of his foreign policy successes surely helped him a bit.  We expect, however, that this gain will be largely wiped out by Romney officially meeting the Commander-In-Chief “threshold” test.

One potential concern we have regarding Romney’s presentation on this evening was how his consistent posture of American strength in the world politically and militarily will play to the Independent voter.  Though a huge part of his strategy was to not come off this way, we can’t help but think that some will easily put him in the G.W Bush mold.

We believe at this point, under heavy war fatigue, that many Americans would trade less deliverables on foreign affairs in exchange for less chance of a future conflict.  We bet that most Americans would agree Romney would achieve more strategic objectives using a muscular approach, we are just not convinced they view them as particularly worth it at this point in time.  Frankly we think it’s fair to say a future military conflict feels far more likely under a Romney administration and traditionally this has not played well with women and to a lesser extent Independents in general.

Romney’s avoidance of getting into bitter, edgy, attack filled exchanges with the president was absolutely on purpose.  We believe the strategy decision here was informed by the calendar, meaning Romney wanted to ensure that the economy, and not foreign policy, was the focus of the next several news cycles.  With now only 14 news cycles left, every one involving the economy directly benefits him while all those that don’t have a chance to hurt him.

In the macro we like the strategy.  While he may have lost slightly on points, we think in the bigger picture Mitt Romney set the table well for the next two weeks…and inched ever closer to the White House.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As a final thought, although the debate was on foreign policy, quite a bit of domestic policy was drawn into the conversation.  Obama again accused Romney of wanting to see the auto industry die.  Romney has repeatedly stated that his idea for the auto industry was to help them through a managed bankruptcy so that they could leverage existing government help without the government needing to bail them out.   Obama said several times that people can “check it out” themselves.  He’s right of course.  I’ll challenge you to go ahead and just do a Google search and find out yourself, but I can also tell you Obama is wrong (I would have said he lied, but for all I know one of his staff told him to say that).  A New York Times editor changed the title of a think piece written by Romney from “The Way Forward for the Auto Industry” to “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”  His recommendation was clearly a managed bankruptcy process with help from the federal government.  Here is a link to the piece: and here is a write-up at about the issue:  I found all this by simply doing a Google search on: “what did romney say about the auto industry”.


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Iowa Votes 2012: Preview of Coverage

Iowa Votes 2012: Preview of Coverage

Over the past several weeks we have taken an in-depth look at each of the 8 Iowa Senate races TCR: Iowa has deemed as leaning either Republican or Democrat.  From now untill election day we are moving on to take a closer look at the 5 Senate races we feel will determine control of the Iowa Senate–and hence control of the Iowa Legislature for the next two years.  These races crucial for control are SD 49, SD 48, SD 36, SD 30, and SD 26.

In addition to looking at these 5 races, on November 4th we will look at the districts where Republicans blew major oppurtunities and therefore are not competetive, and on November 5th we will provide a guide for what to watch for on election night.

Here is a compilation of links to the 8 Senate Leaners we have covered:

Senate District 14 – Amy Sinclair (R)  vs.  Dick Schrad (D)

Senate District 22 – Pat Ward (R)  vs.  Desmund Adams (D)

Senate District 8 – Mike Gronstal (D)  vs.  Al Ringenneberg (R)

Seante District 42 – Rich Taylor (D)  vs.  Larry Kruse (R)

Senate District 38 – Tim Kapucian (R)  vs.  Shelley Parbs (D)

Senate District 24 – Jerry Behn (R)  vs.  Shelly Stotts (D)

Senate District 44 -  Tom Courtney (D)  vs.  Bradley Bourn (R)

Senate District 46 -  Shawn Hamerlinck (R)  vs.  Chris Brase (D)

Iowa Senate Races: A Closer look At The Last Leaner (SD46)

Iowa Senate Races: A Closer look At The Last Leaner (SD46)

(( Click for TCR: Iowa’s complete overview of the Iowa Senate races ))

The Candidates

Shawn Hamerlinck (R)  vs.  Chris Brase (D)

Shawn Hamerlinck is the incumbent here.  He is a faculty member of the Eastern Iowa Community College District and is seeking his second term after first being elected to the Iowa Senate in 2008.  Chris Brase is a longtime Muscatine firefighter running for office for the first time.

The District

Senate District 46 is on the Eastern border of Iowa, essentially curling around the north and east sides of the city of Davenport.  By registered voter numbers this is the true definition of a swing district—(R-11,644) (D-11,197) (NP-15,741) (R+447).  Having said that, the fact that both the House seats in this district (91 and 92) are held by Republicans, and the incumbent Senator is also a Republican, suggests the GOP has a stronger history of getting out the vote in this area.  The two counties in play are Muscatine and the Southwestern territory of Scott County.

The Race

Surprising most Iowa political watchers, Hamerlinck faced a primary challenge from fellow incumbent and friend Jim Hahn.  Though he won handily on primary day he was forced to spend a good deal of money along the way—and as such was way down in cash on hand to Brase as of the last filing period.  With Brase having nearly $30,000 in the bank, it remains to be seen if Republicans will double-donate to Hamerlinck—if they don’t I fully expect the Party to step in with resources.  The GOP certainly doesn’t want to spend in defense of a popular incumbent, however, the thought of losing an up and coming future star in the Party will be a much less appealing reality.

Despite being only his first term, Hamerlinck has been very active in writing, sponsoring, and co-sponsoring legislation.  The areas in which he focused his legislative contributions were in cutting regulations (SF 2116 & SR 7), protecting the 2nd Amendment (SF’s 162, 263, 264, and 372), and creating an online database for citizens to track government spending (SF 139).

Chris Brase is running hard on being able to be bi-partisan, saying he will, “work with anyone who has a good idea—Republican or Democrat—and stand up to partisan politics on behalf of Iowa’s families.”  He says he is in favor of cutting taxes on middle class families and helping local businesses—partially by pushing for more low-interest loans for such enterprises.

As mentioned above his $30,000 on hand for this race proves he is able to raise the funds necessary to unseat an incumbent Senator.  Beyond providing invaluable advertising, fundraising numbers in non-statewide elections are an important barometer for lesser known candidates because it points to their overall persuasive abilities.  This not only translates to cash in the bank but suggests the candidate will do very well on the doorstep of undecided voters.

Though I have this seat leaning Republican there are several factors that make this a possible pick-up for Democrats.  On top of the fact Brase has no large registered voter advantage to overcome, has plenty of money, and that local Democrats are likely hungry to finally have representation in this area—Senate 46 falls inside Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District.  This is the match-up between Dave Loebsack (D) and John Archer (R), and as of now Archer is not running as strong as the other Republican Congressional hopefuls.

If on election night Loebsack is able to defeat Archer, and do it by close to double-digits, Hamerlinck is in jeopardy of being taken out as well.  Though being defeated is certainly possible, I still see Shawn Hamerlinck returning to the Iowa Senate in 2013.

Further Information

Shawn Hamerlinck –

Chris Brase -

Des Moines Register Challenge: Endorsement In Secret

2nd Presidential Debate: Complete Re-Cap & Analysis Of A Dynamic Evening

Following a week and a half of Democrats either piling criticism on President Obama’s first debate performance or making excuses for it, few could question that tonight the Country’s microscope was squarely focused on our 44th President.  Would he over-correct and turn voters off by being too aggressive?  Would he be able to effectively go on the attack in the Town Hall format?  How will he handle personal questions from the very people struggling due to “his” anemic economy?

After the dust settled tonight, not only were these questions and the 11 questions the audience asked answered—we might have just gotten the answer to the biggest question of them all.  Let’s jump right in.

President Obama (Art Smith)

Last night’s debate proved to be much more interesting and entertaining that I was expecting.  The President surprised me with some of his answers, and clearly made up some lost ground after his less than vibrant appearance in the first debate.

It is fair to say the President brought his A-minus game to the debate this time.  It was a refreshing improvement over the first debate, although even in using a more aggressive style, Obama’s voice and physical positioning still seemed somewhat anemic.  If his goal was to prove he was in the race and ready to cut Romney down to size, he came pretty close to succeeding.   The content of his answers were far better in this showing than the first, and he was clearly well prepared enough to demonstrate a previously missing comprehension of how his comments have been interpreted on the campaign trail and in the first debate.

Notable Questions

The President managed to not directly answer most of the questions that were asked of him.  Of all the well thought questions that were asked by independent voters in the debate, I thought the following were especially valuable:

  1. Is seeking lower gasoline prices part of the policy of the Department of Energy? (Obama’s answer: presented his energy policy.  Never answers the question)
  2. What plans do you have to put back and keep jobs here in the United States? (Obama’s answer: create new jobs, lower the corporate tax rates, double our exports, focus on high-skill high-wage jobs, especially in Manufacturing)
  3. What has your administration done or plan to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?  (Obama’s answer was to find ways to reduce violence in general, and to seek a new assault weapon ban)
  4. Would you deal with immigrants living here without a green card as productive members of society? (Although Obama never directly stated it, reading between the lines his answer is “yes”)

Obama’s 2 Best Answers

1)  Responses on the Benghazi issue were probably the President’s strongest segment of the debate.  He managed to score big points by getting the moderator’s confirmation that he had, in a Rose Garden speech the day after the consulate was overrun and four Americans were murdered, made reference to “acts of terror” when talking about the attack.  A more careful reading of that speech later shows that the reference was vague and not apparently directed toward this attack.  He took umbrage (that’s about as strong a word that works for me in this debate) in Romney’s attacks on his Secretary of State “team” and fired back that his comments, which suggested misdirection or political cover up, were offensive.

The best part was his reiteration of comments earlier Tuesday from campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki that he was fully responsible for the failures that led to the deaths at the American Embassy in Benghazi.  This statement was unexpected and for some a breath of fresh air.  However, since the Secretary actively took the fall on Monday, it seems unlikely that this position was the go-forward model until early today (likely after so much was said about Clinton’s statement Monday).  That said, it will likely play well with a lot of people.  It will be interesting to see whether Clinton holds her position for very long despite the President’s new “the buck stops here” attitude.

2)  Another surprise and relatively strong answer came regarding the question on assault weapons.  Although Obama’s answer was essentially that he would continue to seek a new ban on assault weapons, he presented his position within the context of treating the Second Amendment as real and meaningful.  He acknowledged not only hunting, but also personal defense as proper reasons to own firearms.  By eventually casting Romney as an early enemy of gun owners (which Romney managed to work his way around), he cast himself somewhat further to the right than Romney.  He spent more time moving focus away from guns and onto “reducing violence”.

Frankly, this is an area that concerns me, even though both candidates advocated this, because there are a number of policies that can be affected in the name of “reducing violence”, each of which can lead to additional invasions of individual rights.  It would be helpful to see more details around this topic, and high hopes that eugenics, hyper-pacifism and anti-psychotic medications are not part of the President’s plan.

Obama’s 2 Best lines

  1. “When folks mess with Americans, we go after them!”
  2. “I’m the one that’s ultimately responsible!”

Mitt Romney (Justin Arnold)

From beginning to end Romney’s performance was a continuation in every way of his first highly impressive performance.  He was in full command of the issues and his agenda, never got tripped up, dominated on his strong suit (the economy), and more than adequately handled issues that could have been pitfalls—namely immigration and how he was different that President Bush.

In my view tonight’s debate will have a decisive impact on the end game of this election, I will explain further in the summary, but first here is a quick re-cap of Romney’s night.

Romney’s 2 Best Lines

  1. After a testy exchange on Obama’s energy policy—“The proof of whether a strategy is working or not is what the price is you’re paying at the pump.  If you are paying less than you were a year or two ago then well the strategy is working…but you are paying more.  When the president took office the price here in Nassau was $1.86 a gallon, now it’s almost $4 bucks a gallon.”
  2. In response to Obama saying that Romney’s tax plan doesn’t add up—“When we’re talking about math that doesn’t add up, how about $4 trillion in deficits over the last four years?  That’s math that doesn’t add up”

Romney’s 2 Best Answers

Romney had several on the economy that were fantastic and could have been chosen, but, in order to provide a feel for the other topics, here are two non-economic ones that stood out:

1)  In answering a question of how specifically he was different than G.W Bush (whom the questioner did not like), Romney was ready and ticked off four quick points.  The last three of these were: “I’m gonna crack down on China—President Bush didn’t.  I’m gonna get us to a balanced budget—President Bush didn’t.  And my focus will be on small businesses.  We (Republicans) have been the Party of big business for too long.”

2)  Romney took a question on gun control and re-phrased it to address social values in America—“How are we going to change the culture of violence we have?  (One way is) parents.  We need moms and dads helping raise kids, wherever possible having the benefit of two parents in the home, though it’s not always possible.  We have a lot of great single moms and great single dads….but gosh, to tell our kids before they have babies they ought to think about getting married to someone—that’s a great idea.”

Art’s Summary

The President made up a lot of ground last night and came off as more in control and Presidential than he did in the first debate.  This debate was a toss-up, but there is likely to be some improvement in the President’s polling numbers.  This debate was the turning point that forestalls Romney’s gradual improvement over Obama’s numbers, which means it’s unlikely that the Governor is going to run wildly away from the President and instead will likely continue to be a very close race with no clear “winner” to be determined until late on Election Night.

But there is one more debate.  You never know.

Justin’s Summary

I’m just going to cut straight to the chase and make two predictions, one bold and the other bolder, and then walk through how I arrived there.  The first is that Barrack Obama cannot decisively beat Romney in a debate this cycle, and the second is that Mitt Romney won the Presidency tonight.

The main reason Obama cannot prevail over Romney in a debate is that the numbers are simply so bad in so many areas of American life (high unemployment, high gas prices, high food prices, massive deficits and debt) that President Obama is just constantly playing defense and is reduced to saying we need to “build on” the last four years.  Perhaps this would work to defeat a lesser candidate with a lighter resume…but not Romney.

The second reason is that Romney is a very good debater.  He has a knack for answering questions by ticking off numbered lists that both plays very well and leaves the question “feeling” answered.  More importantly though—whether you like Romney or not—he just exudes competence.  That’s as simple as I can put it.  It comes from a life experience of solving problems, making decisions in public, and having personal success.  This “exuding” dynamic, ironically, is what we saw four years ago with Obama but it wasn’t competence he was exuding but rather vision, charm, and charisma.

The reason that I see Romney’s edge sticking and cementing a November victory is that the first debate gave Romney the lead he has now—and only a decisive Obama debate victory can wipe it out.  With so little time left, and Obama in my view unable to deliver said victory, a vast majority of Independents and undecided voters will break for Romney.  This sect of voter has been looking for an alternative to Obama (they haven’t committed to him for a reason) and Romney’s performances have now given them this reason twice.  I realize this differs with the way many talking heads saw it, and my own publisher, but I am looking big picture here and not just taking this 90 minute moment in time on its own.

I am far from a Republican cheerleader, separate from the Party on multiple issues, and call them out consistently when warranted.  I have to call it like I see it and feel it—and this is as sure as I have been of victory since the Primary process began.  I have been highly skeptical and lacking in hope at points along the way…but not tonight.


The post 2nd Presidential Debate: Complete Re-Cap & Analysis Of A Dynamic Evening appeared first on The Conservative Reader.

Iowa Senate Races: A Closer Look At The Leaners (SD 44)

Iowa Senate Races: A Closer Look At The Leaners (SD 44)

((Click for TCR: Iowa’s complete overview of the races that will decide the Iowa Senate))

The Candidates

Tom Courtney (D)  vs.  Bradley Bourn (R)

Tom Courtney is the incumbent in the race and currently serves as the Senate Majority Whip and as the Democrat Chair of the Government Oversight Committee.  Bradley Bourn retired from the military in 2009 after 24 years, and in that same year unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the Burlington City Council.  He has started a small business called Voil Fuel & Services, which produces biofuel from used cooking oil.

The District

Senate District 44 sits in the Southeastern corner of Iowa and is composed of Des Moines and Louisa Counties, and the Western half of Muscatine County.  The registered voter situation here is: (D-14,738) (R-10,220) (NP-12,526), which leaves a built in advantage of 4,518 potential Party voters for Senator Courtney.

The Race

Courtney, a former Burlington School Board member, was first elected to the Iowa Senate mid-term in 2000.  He won re-election in 2002 before winning the seat again in 2004 and 2008.  Throughout his tenure he has tried several times to raise Iowa’s minimum wage, most recently trying to pass a bill that would have increased it from $7.25 to $10.00.

He has been in the news in the last two weeks for efforts to have Secretary of States Matt Schultz audited for using Help America Vote Act funds to purge Iowa’s voter rolls of non-eligible voters.  The success of this effort will likely not be known till after the election, and it will be interesting to see if the publicity this has earned him right before November’s vote will be an advantage or if it will be offset by motivating Republicans in this district to turn out.  Based on his voter registration edge, I probably would have advised him not to play this card, as the risk seems to outweigh the reward.

Besides his military background, Bourn is running as a staunch fiscal and social conservative.  Lowering state spending and taxes are his key issues, telling local media outlets that, “I worked hard all my life.  I paid a lot of taxes in my lifetime.  I know a lot of people, obviously, have and I’m tired of money just being thrown down the drain.”  Speaking on Iowa spending more money that it takes in each year he said, “That’s just unacceptable.  I’m tired of having productive people’s money being given to the unproductive”.

Bourn is likely to hit Courtney on spending issues and his Government Oversight Committee’s failure to detect and stop the Iowa Film Office’s massive scandal from a few years ago.  Though these lines of attack are effective, I have this seat in the end being won by Senator Courtney.  The main reasons are that Courtney has been an outspoken and active member of the Democrat Caucus, the voters know what they have in him, and he has not been unseated in three previous cycles.  On top of this he had five times more cash on hand than Broun as of July 19th.

What we have here is a classic Liberal vs. Conservative match-up.  Knowing that Bourn is a highly credible challenger will likely cause Democrats in the district to head out to the polls, and I see Courtney scoring a victory largely as a result of his voter registration advantage.

Further Information

Sen. Tom Courtney – Iowa Senate Page * Facebook Page

Bradley Bourn –


((TCR: Iowa’s Complete Overview of the Struggle for the Senate))


The State of Iowa Mourns the loss of Senator Pat Ward

The State of Iowa Mourns the loss of Senator Pat Ward

Iowans all across the state were shocked and saddened this morning by the news that Senator Pat Ward had passed away after losing her battle with breast cancer.  She had served as a Republican in the Iowa Senate since 2004 and was an extremely respected woman and legislator.  The following are statements released by Governor Branstad, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, and Republican Party of Iowa Chairman A.J Spiker, and TCR Publisher Art Smith.

All of us at The Conservative Reader pass on our sincere condolences to the Ward family.  She will be missed.


Governor Branstad

“I was with shock and sadness that learned of my friend Pat Ward’s passing. She had a wonderful career in public service, and was such a caring and passionate person. As a senator, she was a champion for her district, took the time to get to know the issues, and worked in a bipartisan manner to enact meaningful legislation on behalf of her constituents. She always had a positive outlook on life, even in illness, and her smile would brighten each room she entered. The thoughts and prayers of Chris and I are extended to her large network of family, friends and constituents.”

Lt. Governor Reynolds

“Having served with Pat in the Senate, I witnessed firsthand her dedication to the state of Iowa, and her incredible work every day on behalf of her constituents. Pat Ward was a dear friend, and the news of her passing is incredibly difficult and painful to hear. I hope all Iowans will look at her example, the way she cared for others and worked to make the world a better place, and remember her significant life and achievements. Our administration will miss her as a policy maker, and we all will personally miss her as a friend.”

RPI Chairman A.J Spiker

“I am saddened to learn of the passing of Iowa State Senator Pat Ward. Public service and dedication to the people of Iowa were hallmarks of her career. On behalf of all Iowa Republicans, I would like to express our gratitude for Pat’s service to the people of Iowa. Our thoughts and prayers are with Pat’s friends and family during this difficult time.”

TCR Publisher Art Smith

“Pat was a kind and dedicated woman who was always interested in hearing the opinions of others, especially her constituents.  During my brief opportunities in speaking with Pat, I found her to be charming and very well informed on the issues.  As my senator, I was surprised that she not only remembered me whenever we crossed paths, but on our first acquaintance quickly connected me to a single letter I had written her in the past.  I sincerely admired her person-ability.”

Des Moines Register Challenge: Endorsement In Secret

Vice Presidential Debate: Recap and Analysis

Though few would have predicted it two weeks ago, going into tonight’s Vice-Presidential debate the real pressure to perform was squarely on the shoulders of Joe Biden.  This prospect was clearly one that Republicans across the Country have been giddy about in the days leading up to this debate—but tonight the meltdown they were hoping for didn’t happen.  Joe Biden performed well, avoided any big gaffes, and the two candidates essentially dueled to a near draw.

Paul Ryan (Justin Arnold)

As mentioned in our prior debate analysis, we focus on themes because they are the messages that each candidate comes in with for a reason.  These are the issues and messages they have determined will move the needle in their favor and each candidates ability to skillfully drive these themes home, more often than not, determines the success or failure of their performance.


Due to the more direct question and answer format of this debate, solidly landing on his themes was somewhat of a problem for Congressmen Ryan and I felt Biden did a better job in this area.  That said, Ryan’s three most consistently hit on points were:

1)  “This is not what a real recovery looks like” —This message could be summarized as ‘The President has had four years, made his choices, and we are still moving in the wrong direction’.  I felt Ryan’s biggest scores of the night were hammering on the point that the GDP number has been lower in each of the last three quarters.  It’s just impossible to refute these numbers and they don’t match up with the administrations narrative of a recovery in progress.

2)  Mitt Romney is “uniquely qualified” to solve our Country’s current problems—This phrase was uttered by Ryan three times, and most effectively in his closing statement when he followed it by saying, ”since we are facing a jobs crisis wouldn’t it be nice to have a job creator in the White House?”.

3)  On Foreign Policy: Projecting weakness in international affairs causes our enemies to be further emboldened and, ultimately, causes the U.S and the rest of the world to be in more danger—There is no question that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are “peace through strength” guys.

Ryan’s 3 Best Lines

1)  On Medicare reform—“We would rather have 50 million future seniors determine how their Medicare is delivered to them instead of 15 bureaucrats deciding what, if, where, and when they get it.”

2)  Said directly to Biden—“Do you know what the unemployment rate is in Scranton (Biden’s hometown) right now?…it’s 10%.  Do you know what it was the day you guys came into office?…it was 8.5%.”

3)  Regarding Romney’s secretly recorded conversion talking about the “47%” —“I think the Vice President very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way”.  To which Biden quickly and awesomely responded, “But I always mean what I say…and so does Romney”.

Joe Biden (Art Smith)

Last night’s Vice-Presidential Debate (heavily touted as “the first and only”) was a great opportunity for Joe Biden to make up lost ground after the President’s less than aggressive performance last week. Joe was clearly comfortable in this position, and frankly after nearly 40 years in public office, this is probably an area that he will be considerably stronger than Barack Obama, and Paul Ryan. He really showed significant authority in discussing foreign policy issues, especially with regard to the Middle East conflicts.

Throughout the evening, Joe took to the attack on issues when responding to direct questions from the moderator, and even in some responses from Ryan. Biden was much weaker when reacting to criticisms and challenges from Ryan, especially early in the debate, resorting to alternating reactions of laughter, surprise and shock, and often interrupting Ryan with contradicting statements. But even in what one could intellectually consider a weak reaction, many would have seen him as simply keeping things light while discussing deep technical policy issues.

Biden went to great lengths not to call Ryan a liar. The difference between the two sets of candidates was significantly clearer than they were in the first Presidential debate. Biden also took every opportunity to refer to Paul as his “friend”.


Biden’s themes were very consistent with his typical stump speeches of late:

1. Romney/Ryan will subject seniors to significant ($6,500+ per year) financial burdens in Medicare by implementing vouchers.

2. Romney/Ryan will privatize Social Security, which will put seniors money at unnecessary risk.

3. Romney/Ryan will turn the clock back and take away a woman’s right to an abortion.

4. The President has made no errors in dealing with foreign affairs, and any blame for challenges belong to Republicans, and the Intelligence Community.

5. The President’s successes have been in spite of Republican attempts to thwart his work. “This is a guy [Obama] who has done everything he said he was going to do”.

In a nutshell, “President Obama is perfect, and Romney/Ryan should scare you to death.” Biden’s ability to portray Republicans as scary and misguided is truly artful, and combined with his ability to present his party’s position in terms that are easy to understand and process, he is one of the strongest assets Democrats have.

Biden’s one and only moment to truly put a personal face on who he is came up with the question of his faith and abortion. He stated that because the Church teaches that life begins at conception, that’s what he believes. But he simply puts that assessment into a “religion” box and refuses to force others to conform to that idea. It was intriguing that he was willing to state his belief in Catholic teaching.

Biden also won a major “gotcha”. While Paul Ryan was criticizing the Stimulus package, the Vice President brought up the fact that the Congressman requested some of that stimulus money for two of his constituents. Ryan really wasn’t prepared to answer that one, and frankly Ryan came out of that looking hypocritical. For those focused on character, this moment may have swayed some toward the Democrats.

Biden’s 2 Best Lines

1) “The most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions” while discussing the use of sanctions to keep Iran from building a nuclear weapon,

2) “The last thing America needs is to get into another ground war in the Middle East” while discussing the civil war in Syria.

Justin’s Summary

In my view this debate squarely fits the classic definition of a draw.  If I was forced to pick a winner I would say Biden, just by a nose—and clearly not by enough to make a difference in the race.  The reason I believe this is that he was more emphatic than Ryan when making a majority of his points.  Though Biden interrupted way too much and was at times borderline rude, many undecided voters are in the dark on the issues being argued and a emphatic and confident delivery goes a long way.

Two things really stood out to me as “sign of the times” moments.  One was both men absolutely agreed we need to leave Afghanistan in 2014, and more significantly that the following exchange happened in a nationally televised Vice-Presidential debate (and it wasn’t a gaffe):

Moderator – “Will benefits under these programs (Medicare and Social Security) have to change for the programs to survive?”

Paul Ryan – “Absolutely.  Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt.”

It’s safe to say we have come a long way in this Country on being able to politically acknowledge our problems—and this offers hope we can successfully address them in the near future.

Though I do feel it was a pure draw, and give Biden the edge theatrically, the fact that much of the debate consisted of both candidates speaking about how bad the economy is and how the middle-class has been decimated is not good for the incumbent ticket.

Art’s Summary

If you came to this party hoping to see a repeat of the first Presidential debate, you would have been disappointed. Joe Biden successfully made up for what many have considered a lackluster performance on the part of the President. Paul Ryan was energetic, but excessively detailed in many of his answers. On general appearance, Biden was clearly the winner. On content and solutions, Paul Ryan maintained the momentum, staying on point even when Biden simply dismissed him in response.







The post Vice Presidential Debate: Recap and Analysis appeared first on The Conservative Reader.

Iowa Senate Races: A Closer Look At The Leaners (SD 24)

Iowa Senate Races: A Closer Look At The Leaners (SD 24)

(For a complete overview by TCR:Iowa of the Iowa Senate races click here)

The Candidates

Jerry Behn (R)  vs.  Shelly Stotts (D)

Jerry Behn is the incumbent and was elected to the Senate in 1995 after serving one year as Boone County Supervisor.  He was then elected Senate Minority leader on November 10th, 2011.  Shelly Stotts has been a teacher in Boone for the last 28 years, has her Masters Degree in Education, and is a past president of the Boone Educators Association.

The District

Senate District 24 sits due North of Dallas County.  It’s new configuration after redistricting shaves off Dallas County and replaces it with the Southeastern portion of Webster County and the Northwestern corner of Story County.  These slivers join all of Hamilton, Greene, and Boone Counties to construct SD 24.  The registered voter numbers here are less favorable to Jerry Behn than his old district was, though he still holds an advantage of R+1,379.  The rest of the numbers are: (R-13,465) (D-12,086) (NP-14,553), with the district total being 40,132.

The Race

Much like Senate District 38, this goes in the leaner column by just a hair and should be a victory for Behn.  In addition to campaigning hard, Jerry Behn has been one of the point men rolling out the Republican legislative agenda titled “Iowa Strong“—which is a fairly specific, multi-issue priorities list for the upcoming session.

Despite being a well-liked legislator, a fantastic spokesman for the Republican Party, and a likely victor in his November re-election bid—Behn has come under fire this year from fellow Republicans for not raising the kind of funds necessary for a Republican takeover of the Senate.  There is really no way to say the criticism is unjustified, as part of his job as minority leader is building a war chest that can be distributed to other Republican candidates throughout the state.  As of the last filing period he was outraised by his counterpart, Democratic Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, by more than $416,000.

Democrat Shelly Stotts is attempting to transition from a long career in teaching to Senator by taking down the highest ranking Republican in the Senate.  Though the registration advantage is surely able to be overcome, Mrs. Stotts will have a hard time doing so for two major reasons.  First, though Behn’s cash on hand is low for a Minority Leader, he still has $83,383 in the bank to Stotts’ $1,528.  Secondly, she has identified her political views on her own Facebook page as “liberal”.  Though laudable for her honesty—this self-description combined with her money disadvantage is not a recipe for an upset.

Frankly, I am surprised that more Democrats have not stepped up to the plate with donations.  You would expect this to be the case being that the newly drawn district left a Republican Senate Minority Leader with such a small voter registration advantage.  Put simply it would be a shock not to see Jerry Behn back in the Senate in 2013—and the possibility of him being at the helm of a newly minted Republican majority is certainly within reach.

Further Information

Jerry Behn – Candidate Profile

Shelly Stotts – Facebook Page

(Complete TCR: Iowa overview of the races crucial to Republicans winning a majority in the Iowa Senate)


Iowa Senate Races: A Closer Look At The Leaners (SD 38)

Iowa Senate Races: A Closer Look At The Leaners (SD 38)

(For a complete overview by TCR: Iowa of the Iowa Senate races click here)

The Candidates

Tim Kapucian (R)  vs.  Shelley Parbs (D)

Tim Kapucian is the incumbent, having first been elected to the Senate in 2009.  Shelley Parbs is a first time candidate and a production worker at Rockwell-Collins.

The District

Iowa Senate District 38 is located Northeast of Des Moines, halfway between Polk County and the Illinois border.  It is made up entirely of three whole counties (Poweshiek, Iowa, and Benton).  The number breakdown of registered voters in SD 38 is as follows: (R-12,549) (D-10,963) (NP-16,512), which leaves a Republican advantage of +1,586.

The Race

Since being elected in 2009 Tim Kapucian has taken on a high profile role in the Senate minority.  This includes, but is not limited to, being elected Assistant Republican Leader and being the ranking member of the Senate Transportation Committee and the Transportation, Infrastructure and Capitals Appropriations Subcommittee.  The Bleeding Heartland makes the very good observation that Democrats will attack hard on the fact that he is on the record twice voting for an increase in the per-gallon tax on gasoline.  Kapucian has gotten major backing from Farm Bureau and, beyond being a farmer himself, this is likely not a coincidence as they spent the last year leaning on Republicans to support this unpopular price hike.

Shelley Parbs easily won a three way Democratic Primary to earn the right to take on Kapucian.  She is a production worker with Rockwell-Collins and a member of the union, IBEW.  Mrs. Parbs appears to be another Democratic labor union candidate (she’s been endorsed by every union in a 50 mile radius), and yet another Democratic candidate with absolutely no information on her campaign website regarding her political views or agenda.  All the visitor gets is that Parbs wants to “invest in worker training” and “make sure jobless Iowans get the help they need to get back on thier feet”.  This is the case with so many of these Democrat candidates that it is beyond a trend and is surely an intentional strategy from the political higher-ups in the Party.  How they are expecting to bring anyone into the campaign with no information on issues, not even platitudes—fully escapes me.

This seat is a strong Republican leaner because the challenger is not that threatening and the Republican Party will not let Kapucian go without plenty of resources and attention.  He made not need much help, as the fact that he already had a $41 thousand to $15 thousand dollar cash on hand advantage as of July 19th shows he doesn’t exactly struggle in the fund raising department.

It strikes me that this race could be very interesting if there was a Democrat surge for the candidate on the presidential ballot, as there was in 2008 for Obama.  The fact is this will not be the case in 2012 and Senator Kapucian should be returning to the Senate, perhaps in the majority, in 2013.

Further Information

Tim Kapucian — Senate Republican Caucus page

Shelley Parbs — Shelley4Senate

(Complete TCR: Iowa overview of the races crucial to Republicans winning a majority in the Iowa Senate)


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